Lion Air jet’s problems before crash highlighted as new details emerge

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New details about the crashed Lion Air jet’s previous flight have cast more doubt on the Indonesian airline’s claim to have fixed technical problems.

The brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane plunged into the Java Sea early on Monday, just minutes after taking off from the Indonesian capital Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

Herson, head of Bali-Nusa Tenggara Airport Authority, said the pilot on the plane’s previous flight on Sunday from Bali requested to return to the airport not long after take-off but then reported the problem had been resolved. Several passengers have described the problem as a terrifying loss of altitude.

“Shortly after requesting RTB, the pilot then contacted the control tower again to inform that the plane had run normally and would not return” to Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport, said Herson, who uses a single name. “The captain said the problem was resolved and he decided to continue the trip to Jakarta.”

Data from flight-tracking websites shows both flights had highly erratic speed and altitude after take-off, though confirmation is required from data recorded by the aircraft’s “black box” flight recorders.

Investigators displayed one of the jet’s two flight recorders at a news conference on Thursday evening, later confirmed to be the flight data recorder, and said they would immediately attempt to upload information and begin analysis.

Shoes and debris retrieved from the waters near where a Lion Air jet is believed to have crashed
Shoes and debris retrieved from the waters near where a Lion Air jet is believed to have crashed (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

The steel-encased memory unit of the recovered flight recorder had separated from its base plate, showing the plane hit the sea at tremendous speed, he said. Investigators say that is also indicated by the search and rescue effort finding many body parts rather than intact victims.

Mr Satmiko said investigators had already contacted the pilot of the plane’s Sunday flight. The problems with it were “just as it circulates on media and social media,” he said, referring to accounts of passengers.

One of them, Diah Mardani, told a current affairs television programme earlier this week that after take-off “the plane suddenly fell, then rose, then fell again harder and shook.”

“All the passengers started shouting God is Great,” she said. “The atmosphere was very tense.”

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